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A Jewish Intaglio From Roman Ammaia, Lusitania




Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, Israel 2007
Annual of the
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum

Editor Eugenio Alliata
Co-editors Frderic Manns, L. Daniel Chrupcaa
Editorial Board Giovanni Bissoli, G. Claudio Bottini, A. Marcello
Buscemi, Gregor Geiger, Pietro Kaswalder, Giovanni
Loche, Alviero Niccacci, Carmelo Pappalardo, Massimo
Pazzini, Michele Piccirillo, Rosario Pierri, Tomislav Vuk


sponsored by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land:

SBF Liber Annuus (LA) 1951-2006

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E. Cortese I tentativi di una teologia (cristiana)

dellAntico Testamento 9

M. Nobile La redazione finale di Ezechiele

in rapporto allo schema tripartito 29

A. Mello Lordine dei Salmi 47

A. Niccacci Osea 1-3. Composizione e senso 71

G. Rizzi Bibbia dei Settanta oggi. Edizioni,

traduzioni e studi 105

M. Pazzini I volti di tutti sono diventati neri. Nota

filologica a Naum 2,11 (2,10) siriaco 129

G. Lenzi Differenze teologiche tra la Vetus Syra e

il Diatessaron 133

G. Segalla Canone biblico e teologia biblica.

Un rapporto necessario difficile 179

R.J. Boettcher Relational Diagrams in Text Analysis 213

N. Casalini Tradizione e innovazione nelle

Lettere Pastorali 225

F. Manns Zacharie 12,10 relu en Jean 19,37 301

R. Pierri Due note filologiche di greco biblico 311

L. Cignelli Articolo individuante o generico? 317

A. Kofsky Renunciation of Will in the Monastic School

of Gaza 321
M. Pazzini
A. Veronese Due lettere in ebraico da Gerusalemme (XV sec.).
R. Yosef da Montagnana e R. Yiaq Latif
da Ancona 347

M. Piccirillo La Chiesa del Reliquiario a Umm al-Rasas 375

C. Pappalardo Ceramica e piccoli oggetti dallo scavo della

Chiesa del Reliquiario ad Umm al-Rasas 389

B. Hamarneh Relazione dello scavo del complesso

ecclesiale di Nitl. Stratigrafia e ceramica 399

Y. Zelinger
L. Di Segni A Fourth-Century Church near Lod (Diospolis) 459

A. Egea Vivancos Monasterios cristianos primitivos en el

Alto ufrates Sirio: el complejo rupestre
de Magra Sarasat 469

M. Decker Towers, Refuges, and Fortified Farms

in the Late Roman East 499

G. Cravinho
S. Amorai-Stark A Jewish Intaglio from Roman Ammaia,
Lusitania 521

M. Piccirillo
G.C. Bottini Se stai per presentare la tua offerta
allaltare (Mt 5,23-24). La testimonianza
di uniscrizione palestinese 547

Sintesi degli articoli (Abstracts) 553

Ricerca storico-archeologica in
Giordania XXVI 2006 563
Recensioni e libri ricevuti 627
SBF: Anno accademico 2005 - 2006 705
Tavole 1-70

LA 56 (2006) 7-552; tavv. 1-70

G. Cravinho - S. Amorai-Stark


In the course of compiling a Corpus of Greco-Roman gems discovered

in Portugal, Graa Cravinho came across a nicolo intaglio in Dr. Delmira
Mas collection. It is engraved with a pronounced Jewish device: a
Menorah anked by ritual objects (Fig. 1). The Menorah intaglio is one
of 18 Roman engraved glyptic pieces in the collection (Neves 1971: 90,
n 18).1 To date the overall tally of glyptic nds from Ammaia consists
of 27 items.
The collection consists chiey of Roman artifacts. It was amassed from
the early 20th c. at the latest (A. Mas 1913: Dirio de Notcias, August
8; O Sculo August 13 newspaper articles, in Neves 1971: 12, footnote
1) by Mr. Antnio Mas, Dr. Delmiras father. The familys ancestral home
is located in the town of Portalegre, some 15 km from ancient Ammaia
(present day Aramenha). Most of the objects in this important collection
were surface nds, mainly by local people who found them while working
in the elds on the site of Ammaia. The Menorah nicolo was discovered to-
gether with another nicolo depicting a lyre device (Fig. 2) by a local worker
while he was engaged in digging irrigation canals. Both stones, found at
the same locus, were brought to A. Mas on the same date.
Another 3 gems are said to come from Ammaia or from its suburbs (a
cornelian now in the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia inv. 597, with a dolphin
device; two stones, set in golden rings, in the Barreto collection: a black onyx
depicting a running goat, from the suburbs of Marvo, which is situated on
top of the hill above Ammaia; a sardonyx with the device of a charoteer in a
biga, from a farm near Castelo de Vide, a small town near Aramenha which,
at Roman times, was in the Civitas Ammaiensis (Map. 1).2

1. Josefa Conceio Neves 1971 dissertation on the Collection mentions 19 glyptic items.
Her No. 2 in plate 1 is a Modern Art Nouveau piece. Therefore, the number of ancient
glyptic items in this collection totals 18 specimens.
2. For origin and description of all Ammaia gems cf. G. Cravinho, Glptica Romana em
Portugal, forthcoming Doctor Dissertation to be presented to the University of Santiago de

LA 56 (2006) 521-546; Pls. 33-36


Six other gems come from an archaeological excavation still in progress,

headed by Joaquim Carvalho. They were found in a single locus,3 thereby
indicating that the site of Ammaia is indeed a rich glyptic site from which
the earlier collected sporadic glyptic nds come.
Although the Menorah gem does not come from an archaeological dig,
its sites origin, as well as that of the other glyptic pieces in Mr. Antnio
Mas collection, is therefore well conrmed.



A seven-branched candalebrum (Menorah) with tripod base: its branches

are curved and plain, ending with light ttings, short lamps and ames.
The ames are symmetrically arranged: three left side ames and three
right side ames bent to center; uppright central ame. Realistic open palm
branch (lulav) on right; curved rams horn (shofar), with at bulging top
appearing like a bent nail and a realistic citron (etrog) with short stem and
two leaves on the left. These are undoubtedly Jewish symbolic devices.

Formal characteristics and spatial meanings

The shape of the Menorah nicolo, as of the Lyre nicolo found with it, is of
a popular Roman type shape F4 (Henig 1994: g. 1, page XXV), that is,
a gem with at top and base and angled sides. Both likewise present large
elongated central symbolic devices engraved on vertical axis on top of a
light blue layer; darker blue-brown layers encircle the motives as frames
and form the gems lower layers.

3. The excavation has continued since the late 20th c. under the auspicious of the Ammaia
Foundation and supervision of the Universities of Coimbra and vora. We examined these
6 glyptic pieces and the few other jewelry fragments found by this excavation within a
water tunnel of the Ammaia therma (Bath-House) in June 2005. To date only a very small
part of the Bath-House water tunnels has been excavated. Aside from other considerations
and constraints major parts of the baths water system is covered by a major road and by a
grove of protected trees. Of these 6 unpublished glyptic pieces, 1 is a nicolo intaglio (with
a herdsman device), 1 a nicolo paste intaglio (with a warrior?) and 1 a nicolo glass paste
cameo. The other 3 are intaglios: 1 a carnelian (with a sow), 1 a sardonyx (with a Muse)
and 1 a red jasper (with a warrior).

Formally, the two intaglios differ from each other only in few unim-
portant details. The Menorah stone is of larger dimensions (12.3 x 10.8 x
3.7 mm) than the one with the musical instrument (9.6 x 7.0 x 2.5 mm). Its
motifs basic engraving lines are cut into the same light-blue of the surface,
whereas the cuts forming the lyre reach the lower darker blue layer and
thus its motif contrasts strongly with the upper light-blue surface.
The design of the Menorah intaglio differs from that of the lyre intaglio
because the rst renders a central large object with three secondary objects
while the other presents a single object.
Their engraving technique and style is similar. It is an austere linear
engraving style in which the basic modeling is with a medium size rounded
drill and few detailing with long thin wheel grooves. In both specimens the
few thin linear details appear on the basic modelling as very thin to thin
decorative lines. For example, on the lyre body 1 continuous detailing line;
on the body of the citron fruit 3 short secondary lines; on the Menorahs
ames very short thin secondary lines, and on part of its central brunch
1 thin decorative line. Both techniques are typically Roman but the one
using wheel grooves to produce an overall austere linear design of devices
and symbols with few detailing or no detailing are more typical of Late Ro-
man-Early Byzantine period intaglios than of earlier Roman ones (Maaskant
Kleibrink 1978: No. 858; Boardman and Scarisbrick 1977: No. 83; Henig
and Whiting 1987: No. 67; Amorai-Stark 1993: Nos. 121, 124). However,
these styles are particularly common on magical gems depicting symbols
and gural motifs.4 These magical stones date chiey from the 2nd c. A.D.
onwards (Maaskant Kleibrink 1978: Nos. 1141, 1125, 1127; Philipp 1989:
Nos. 7, 31, 51, 104, 113, 121, 128, 136, 155, 168, 179, 187, 188, 193, with
references. Compare in particular 113c, 128c, 179b, 187, 188, 193). When
a single symbolic object is rendered on non-magical Roman intaglios, the
sacred object is usually depicted with greater feeling of volume than the
austere linear single musical object rendered on the Ammaia nicolos, and
with greater detailing (for example cf. Henig and Whiting 1987: No. 219;
Maaskant-Kleibrink 1978: No. 439; Invernizzi 2004: III, 0930-0952).
Vestiges of metal remain within the basic modeling engraving lines of
both stones (Figs. 1b and 2b). Unfortunately, neither intaglio could be submit-

4. The linear engraving style of both Ammaia gems differs greatly from various engraving
styles of lantique intaglios manufactured at Italian, English and other European Modern
(16th-19th c.) workshops. Their output commonly renders devices with much more round
basic modeling, and more detailing than that of the Menorah and lyre Ammaia nicolos, and
depiction of single or more symbolic objects is rare (Brown 1997).

ted to chemical analysis by a powerful microscope to ascertain whether these

yellow metal remains are of bronze or gold.5 Because no vestiges of metal re-
main on sides or undersides of these stones, the vestiges in their grooved tops
are unlikely to be remains of their metal rings, pendants or earring frames
settings. Substantial gold and silver particles were observed within grooves
of hard microquartz gemstones from the Eastern Roman empire (Rosenfeld,
Dvorachek and Amorai-Stark 2003). Although similar studies investigating
microquartz intaglios from the Western Roman empire are wanting, it is
likely that this practice was followed also by intaglio workshops situated in
the West. This is because people adorned with intaglios traveled within the
Roman empire, and thus clients and engravers in the West were probably
also familiar with silver or gold decorated intaglios; some Roman intaglio
engraving styles and forms were universal, or copied by artisans located in
faraway regions from the empires city center such as Rome or Alexandria;
and there is no indication that intaglio craftsmen in the Western part of the
Roman empire worked in different techniques from those practiced in the
East, or favored less fully detailed, less decorative gems. Thus, it is highly
plausible that the yellow metal within the linear grooves of these 2 Ammaia
nicolos is intentional and intended to emphasize the engraved symbols. Their
prime purpose is decorative: to contrast blue and yellow, two prime colours,
thereby helping to clearly differentiate the devices from their background.
The secondary purpose was doubtless a symbolic one: by presenting gold-
like objects on a blue background the symbolic meaning of the gold-like
objects on a blue heaven-like (?) background was stressed (see below).
Representation of symbols on a at, unied background as rendered in
the case of the Ammaia Menorah and lyre intaglios is typical of the vast
majority of Roman symbols depicted on at tops intaglios. This charac-
teristically Roman intaglio spatial representation is not the impressionistic
modality of Greco-Roman painting, which has been dened as subjective
perspective. The latter is only occasionally found on Roman gems. Nor is
it the purely non-illusionist inverted perspective, often seen in Byzantine
depiction of topics which were considered as supernatural (Posek 2005: 29).
Like other Roman nger rings intaglio devices that present symbols, the
Menorah and lyre could be viewed directly on the stones and at the same
time in negative as impressed designs. Therefore, in each case, the spatial

5. For example, by a high microscope such as a KEOL 840 SEM (Scanning Electron Micro-
scope) equipped with an energy dispersive spectrometer (EOM). No such microscope exists
in a Portuguese laboratory and a permission to take the intaglios to a laboratory outside of
Portugal was not obtained.

illustration of the symbols presented frontally on a unied background in

the same linear engraving style is connected to the effect of inverted per-
spective associating it with the theological concept of the spiritual validity
of sacred images.
On the majority of Roman intaglios depicting symbols on a mono-
chrome background, the symbols themselves are presented with an attempt
to reproduce the classical notion of correct bodily proportions, and when
animal symbols are employed, these are rendered also with movement.
When devices of Roman intaglios consist of symbolic object/s with vegetal
symbols, or combined animals/birds/objects with vegetal symbols, each is
rendered in its clearest physical appearance and anatomical proportions, in
a perfect or imperfect symmetry of the design. Absence of clues as to the
environment at which these Roman object symbols are placed on intaglios
precludes an illusion of space, even in pre-3rd c. A.D. examples, in which
overlapping of objects and/or animals occur frequently. The conventional
addition of a ground line, a common feature in glyptic depictions of gural
and animal subjects, is usually missing from Roman glyptic rendering of
object and vegetal symbols. In the majority of these instances, the symbols
seem to oat in space (Boardman and Scarisbrick 1977: No. 53; Maaskant
Kleibrink 1978: Nos. 729-31, 1000-3; Henig and Whiting 1987: Nos. 316,
321-4, 329; Amorai-Stark 1993: SBF Nos. 121-7; Invernizzi 2004: III, O9
MO Greco-Roman sealings from Seleucia on the Tigris. And from Por-
tugal and the Iberian Peninsula: Viana 1953: 237, Fig. 1; Cardozo 1962:
No. 9; Graa and Machado 1970: Nos. 19-20; Viegas, Nolen, and Dias
1981: est. LXXIX, No. 1; Luzon 1982: No. 5; Casal 1991: Nos. 26, 62-5,
113, 115, 180, 418-9, 423-4, 426-7, 462-5, 468-74, 477, 479, 482, 485-6;
Ponte 1995: Nos. 243, 245-6; Cravinho 2000: est. I, Nos. 6-7; Cravinho and
Casal 2002: Nos. 14-5, 25, 27; Lopez de la Orden undated: Nos. 179-80;
185-9; 193-8, Nos. 191-2 astral symbols. Further examples from Portugal
to be published by Graa Cravinho in her forthcoming Glptica Romana
em Portugal: 1 from Idanha-a-Velha; 2 from Borba or Estremoz; 18 from
Alentejo or Algarve; 3 of unknown provenance.)
The layout of the Menorah with its 3 ritual emblems on the Ammaia
nicolo presents an imperfect symmetry: a single large central ritual object
anked by a single smaller ritual object on one side and 2 similarly small
ritual objects on the other. This rendering is based on similar imperfect
rendering of symbols in Roman glyptic where a perfect pattern might be
This imperfect symmetrical layout of the Menorah gem echoes glyptic
layout of symbols on some Roman intaglios. But at the same time its basic

formal traits are predominantly characteristics of Roman-Byzantine Jewish

art. That is to say that when such spatial arrangement and linear austerity as
those exemplied by the Ammaia Menorah gem are combined in a single
artwork these formal traits are in particular a feature of ancient Jewish art,
and when the Menorah with its secondary objects is rendered in this layout
it is not only a matter of depicting a Jewish motif but also a formal feature
typical of post-Second Temple Jewish Art. Thus, the linear rendering of
the Jewish symbols on the Ammaia gem reects the overall preference in
ancient Jewish art for linear design on a blank background and belongs to
it. The spatial representation of its symbols in particular reects the typical
ancient synagogue decorations rendered on a blank background in imper-
fect symmetry, which show in general non-classical traits in design.
Poseks analysis in his reveling article on Jewish artifacts and art works
Towards a Semiotic Approach to Jewish Art (2005) shows that Jewish
artworks were typied by formal traits, which dene their semantic mean-
ings. When they represent non-gural symbols (as well as gural scenes)
the images were always easily understood, but the representations are never
realistic, the reciprocal relations of the objects are disregarded and there
is no attempt to render their spatial environment (Posek 2005: 50). When
Jewish object symbols are thus rendered or when these sacred objects are
combined with a Jewish scene in a single artwork and thus rendered in
imperfect symmetry, it militates against any suggestion of empirical re-
ality. For example, in the Dura Europos synagogue the sacred symbols
(gold Menorah with 2 ritual symbols to left of a central symbolic Temple
of Jerusalem) and the additional Biblical scene (the earliest known depic-
tion of Issacs sacrice anking the Temple on its right) are rendered in
an austere linear manner on a unied blue background (Posek 2005: 35,
g. 5). This apparent suspension of symbols and gures in non-articulated
space is found not only in the Dura Europos main fresco panel placed
above the synagogues holy niche but also on mosaics and other ancient
Jewish depictions of scenes composed in an incongruous setting of holy
symbols, and renderings of symbols together with scenes or of sacred non-
gural symbols. The rendering in ancient Jewish gural scenes commonly
lacks interest in the physical reality and the gures normally appear as if
suspended in a non-articulated space. This apparent suspension in their
non-articulate vacuity indicates that both symbols and gures belong to a
different, non-realistic, sphere of reality. This modality may suggest not
only the traditional Jewish fear of an image or symbol becoming an object
of idolatrous worship and thus is intended to prevent a devotional atti-
tude, but it also suggests that what is represented transcends reality (Posek

2005: 31, gs. 2, 5). Thus, in early Jewish rendering of scenes, and of
scenes combined with symbols the imagery conveys also the suggestion
of timelessness (Posek 2005: 38, 6-8). The anti-realistic effects of Jewish
scenes suggest a deliberate differentiation of the pictorial representation
from what it represents, thereby conveying the suggestion of timelessness
(Posek 2005: 50). The same conclusion applies also to representations of
sacred non-gural Jewish symbolic objects rendered on blank backgrounds.
It is particularly apparent in compositions of Jewish non-gural arrange-
ments of sacred objects rendered in imperfectly bilateral symmetry with
formal irregularity depicting two Menorahs anking the destroyed Temple
of Jerusalem, thereby commemorating it and the cessation of the sacred
liturgy, a typical modality of synagogue mosaic pavements from the Land
of Israel (Posek 2005: 39-45, gs. 9-12).
The modality of the single Menorah motif with 3 ritual emblems, of
which the Ammaia intaglio is an example, is not discussed by Posek. How-
ever, there is no doubt that it derived from the ancient Jewish asymmetrical
dual depictions dating from the Roman period. By presenting the single
central Menorah itself in perfect symmetry with its ames converging to
center, the design of the Ammaia Menorah reects earlier and concurrent
depictions of the Menorah based on the symmetrical physical form of the
sacred Menorah, which also promotes a sense of order and harmony. But,
by representing 2 of its ritual symbols on one side of the symmetrical
Menorah, and a single emblem on its other side in asymmetrical layout
it also shows its dependency on Israeli and latter also Diaspora render-
ings of the dual Menorah anking a central motif, where each Menorahs
ritual emblems are asymmetrical. Asymmetry was perceived as represent-
ing an impermanent, accidental, and potentially changeable situation. The
combined message of symmetry and asymmetry was apparently meant to
indicate the visionary character of the Ammaia Jewish non-gural sacred
objects. Thus, the meaning of the spatial design of this intaglio presents
the same basic symbolic layout of each of the dual Menorah with ritual
emblems in the panels with the central Temple of Jerusalem but in a more
condensed form. Its formal meaning expresses the same basic ideology
as that of the more sophisticated combinations of bilateral plan symmetry
with asymmetrical details found on the Dura Europos panel and the dual
depictions of 2 Menorah anking a central Temple of Jerusalem shown
on mosaic pavements. The choice of rendering this motif on a blank blue
unied background exemplied by the Ammaia nicolo enhances in this
intaglio the ideological meaning of the motif, and in this relates directly to
the blue background of the Dura Europos fresco. If the metal vestiges in

the engraving of the Ammaia Menorah are indeed of intentionally painted

metallic gold/yellow, the indirect dependency of this intaglio on the Dura
Europos main panel Menorah, or more likely on the original modality of
which the Dura Europos Menorah panel is an expression, is even greater.6
The basic spatial meaning of the motif in this intaglio, as well as of
the other Jewish artworks with the same or similar symmetrical spatial
arrangement with asymmetrical details, is the belief in the impermanence
of the Jewish situation without a Temple in Jerusalem and its potentially
changeable situation and, at the same time, the belief that this situation
is ordained with the hope for the future resumption of the Temple liturgy
(Posek 2005: 40-1). Because the identied examples of the spatial arrange-
ments from which the Ammaia Menorah derives do not pre date the 3rd c.
A.D. (the Dura Europos fresco panel with a single Menorah anking the
symbolic Temple of Jerusalem with the Sacrice of Issac on the right dates
from the middle of the 3rd c. A.D.;7 the majority of dual Menorahs anking
the Temple date from the 5th-6th c. A.D.) the ante quem of the Ammaia
Menorah nicolo based on its spatial arrangement appears to be the mid
3rd c. A.D. However, due to the relationship of the linear engraving and
basic spatial arrangement of the Ammaia Menorah gem with other Roman
gems but chiey with 2nd-3rd c. A.D. magical gems, and due to the as yet
absence of evidence relating to the precise date (and location) at which the
prototype of the combined formal features of the modality exemplied by
the Dura Europos Menorah fresco was formed, the ante quem of the Am-
maia Menorah intaglio might well be as early as the middle of the 2nd c.
The overall technical, stylistic features, blank blue background and
plausibly gold-like added engraved lines common to the Menorah and mu-
sical instrument indicate that they are the product of the same period, pos-
sibly even of the same region and/or workshop (?).
On stylistic grounds, these 2 Ammaia gems date from the mid 2nd c.
at the earliest to the 5th c. A.D.

6. It cannot be inferred that the engraver/patron of the Ammaia gem was personally ac-
quainted with the Dura Europos fresco but rather that this symbolic color modality was
plausibly at rst a feature of non-oor renderings of Menorahs but above all that the Am-
maia gem presents the same basic formal color ideological meaning.
7. However, since due to the peripheral location of Dura Europos and the mixed stylistic
origins of its overall early phase frescos to which the Menorah fresco belongs it is doubtful
that the rst prototype of this spatial modality originated in Dura Europos. Future nds may
show that this prototype may well pre dates the mid 3rd c. A.D.

Iconography 8

The nding of the Menorah intaglio points to the presence of a Jew (or
Jews) in mid 2nd-3rd c. to 5th c. A.D. Ammaia. However, the following
iconographical discussion9 sugests that the upper date of this intaglio may
be further limited to the 4th or rst half of the 5th c. A.D. at the latest.
The Menorah with its accompanying ritual objects is a common Jewish
motif depicted predominantly in synagogue and funerary art, particularly
from the 3rd c. A.D. onwards.
The formal type of the Menorah with tripode-base and round semi-
circular branches, seen on the Ammaia stone, presents the most common

8. A discussion on the iconography of the Ammaia lyre nicolo device is beyond the scope of
this article. Sufce it to mention that the lyre had pagan symbolic meaning, for example as
Apollos lyre or Orpheus instrument, examples of which were found also in Roman Portu-
gal (for example, Orpheus playing the lyre to his animals is depicted on a 4th c. mosaic from
Martim Gil, near Leiria, now in the Museu de Arqueologia in Belm, Portugal, MNA, inv.
No. 999.142.1). Some ancients believed that the ringstone of Polycrates was engraved with
the representation of a Chelys, or Lyre (Berry 1969: 107, No. 196). The lyre in the hand of
these Pagan gures or as their single symbolic attributes is occasionally portrayed on Roman
gems (Zwierlein-Diehl 1986: 130, No. 218; Breglia 1941: 74, No. 597; Sena Chiesa 1966:
415, pl. LXXVI, No. 1508; Maaskant-Kleibrink 1978: 128, No. 170; Johns 1997: 94, No.
219; Ambrosio and Carolis 1997: 46, pl. X, No. 106). However, the lyre also represents in
Jewish-Christian ancient art King Davids musical instrument (the Kinnor), and as such the
Ammaia lyre maybe another Jewish stone, or a Christian gem. According to St Clement of
Alexandria, the lyre was a suitable Christian symbol (Henig 1974: 28; Braun 2002: 189-95,
249-74, 287-90, 297-9, V.59b, V.60d).
Morphologically the Ammaia gem lyre appears to be a stylized depiction of the ancient
crescent-like Eastern lyres with high, symmetrical curved arms of same length, straight
yoke, three-strings and crescent-like body (Lawergren 1993: 55, 63-4, g. 9) of which type
B lyre on the Jewish Bar-Khochba coins (132-5 A.D.) is one Roman period sub-type (Braun
2002: 287-91, g. V.57c-d). The thin body of the Ammaia lyre is not typical to ancient
lyres and is unpractical for it lacks a sound-box. This rendering appears to be a reduction
of the characteristically crescent-like lyre body into a continuous, straight, thin body.
This unrealistic depiction of a lyre is not uncommon in Roman times, for in this period
portrayals of lyres do not always depict the instruments realistically. A very similar simpli-
ed three-string lyre of the same basic type as the Ammaia lyre occurs, for example, on a
small metal tesserae found near Caesarea Maritima, Israel (Braun 2002: 298, g. V.59b).
Such unrealistic depictions of lyres conrm the instruments standing as a symbol during
Hellenistic-Roman times (Braun 2002: 297). The stylized standing base of the Ammaia
lyre strengthens this musical instrument aspect as a symbol. Depictions of lyres on a stand
are known, but comparanda on gems are rare (Zwierlein-Diehl 1969: 529, g. 3:1). Such
examples are occasionally found in other art media. For example, a realistically rendered
lyre placed on a box-like podium with the inscription Apollon is the central motif of a
mid 3rd c. Roman mosaic pavement from Elis (Yaluris 1992: 427, tab. 92,1).
9. The following discussion is primarily based on Rachel Hachlili comprehensive mono-
graph on the Menorah in Roman-Byzantine Periods Jewish art (Hachlili 2001).

Menorah type found in Jewish art from the 3rd c. A.D. (Hachlili 2001: 137,
Fig. III: 12). Variations on this type of Menorah, commonly without the
Menorah cross-bar; frequently lighted (with little ames) and anked by
ritual objects, are popular nds in Diaspora funerary art, such as the cata-
combs of Rome dating to the late 2nd-4th c. A.D. or in tombs and objects
from tombs elsewhere in Italy, Sicily, Carthage, Malta, Spain and the East
(Hachlili 2001: 87-95, gs. II-28; II-29).
The grouping of the ritual emblems that ank the Menorah on this
nicolo present one of the most common groupings of ritual objects: lulav,
etrog and shofar in Late Roman Jewish art. It constitutes one of the most
widespread groupings of emblems in Diaspora art where the total of this
grouping is of a higher percentage than in Menorah representations from
the Land of Israel (Hachlili 2001: 221-4, 226-7, tabs. V.2-V.3).
The lulav is the preferred ritual object in Diaspora art. The closest for-
mal type of lulav to the one on the Ammaia gem appears on objects from
Diaspora tombs. The motif of the lulav anking a Menorah with other ritual
objects seems to appear only from the 3rd c. A.D. onwards. The realistic
palm-branch lulav type on our gem is the typical formal type of lulav found
in Diaspora tombs. In comparison, this type of realistically rendered lulav
is rare in depictions of this ritual object from the Land of Israel. Hachlili
suggests that preference for the lulav in the Diaspora might be explained
by a passage from the Mishna (Hachlili 2001: 226, Rosh Hashana 4, 310).
In the art of Israel the lulav is commonly depicted as part of the Tabernacle
Feast bundle together with one or two other branches (representing the
Hadass and/or the Aravah) and with the etrog.
The etrog is also rendered realistically in Diaspora art more commonly
than in the art from the Land of Israel, in synagogue as well as in tomb art
(Hachlili 2001: 218-9, g. V-7).
The Shofar rst appears in synagogue and funerary art of the 2nd-3rd c.
A.D.11 In Jewish Diaspora art, the shofar is the second most frequently de-
picted ritual object, commonly paired with the lulav and the etrog (Hachlili
2001: 211; 212; 215, g. V-4; table V-1). However, in Diaspora art the lulav
and the etrog seldom appear on the same side of the Menorah or together
(Hachlili 2001: 216-8, g. V-6). Diaspora depictions of the joint motif of the
Menorah with the three ritual objects mainly date from the 4th-5th c. A.D.

10. According to this Mishnah after the Temple was destroyed, Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai
ordained that the lulav should be used for seven days in the provinces, in remembrance of
the Temple.
11. But see Braun 2002: 192.

Therefore, because on the Ammaia gem the lulav and the etrog are
not joined, nor appear on the same side of the Menorah, and because the
etrog and the lulav are rendered realistically we can infer that this gem is
a product of a Diaspora workshop, whose upper date is most probably the
4th c. or rst half of the 5th c. A.D., at the latest.
Similar variations of the Menorah to that on the Ammaia nicolo, some-
times anked by the same or different groupings of the ritual objects, are
found on gems, seals and jewelry items from the Diaspora. The existence of
such small artifacts indicate that the Ammaia gem is not a unique example
of jewelry from the Diaspora with a representation of the Menorah anked
by the ritual objects joint motif, but rather that it belongs to a fairly com-
mon class of Jewish jewelry and small artifacts. By having these symbols
rendered their owners proclaimed their Jewishness, personal and national
hopes. However, only in few cases, is the origin of these miniature artifacts
secure. Within this group a fairly large number of securely provenanced
specimens come from the Western part of the Roman empire (for example,
a gold ring from Bordeaux; a ring from Moesia, Sicily; a ring from S. An-
tioco, Sardinia; a ring from Spain; a bronze seal from Rome; two lead seals
from Trier. Cf. Hachlili 2001: 108-9; Wolfe and Sternberg 1999: 89, No.
324). This geographical spread plausibly further indicates that the custom
of depicting the Menorah with its ritual objects on rings and seals was a
fairly common practice mainly (?) of Jews living in the Western part of the
empires Diaspora. However, within the generic types of jewelry and small
artifacts the number of published gems depicting the Menorah is small: 6
stones. None of them originate in excavations and thus their provenance
is not certain. 1, a carnelian, is assumed to be from Aquileia (Zwierlein-
Diehl 1991: 123, No. 2055); 1, another carnelian, is said to come from Italy
(Henig 1983: 109-10, g. 1a; Henig and MacGregor 2004: 132, No. 14.26);
1 unidentied stone, with Greek inscription, is plausibely from Rome, and
1, an amethyst, comes from an unidentied diaspora region (Hachlili 2001:
D 11.3, D 11.5); and 2, a red jasper12 and a carnelian are attributed to Israel
(Hachlili 2001: IS 16.2, IS 16.23). Thus, in none of these published gems
is the Menorah motif depicted on a blue nicolo background as it is on the
Ammaia intaglio. This background, as stated above, enhances the heavenly,
non-temporal, timeless symbolic meaning of the motif to an even larger
extent than the red-orange, red, and purple of the other extant Menorah

12. Perhaps a forgery. IS16.20 might also be a gem but its material is not mentioned
(Hachlili 2001: 342, 345).

The securely provenanced origin of the present gem from Ammaia in

the Roman province of Lusitania is an important addition to the overall
Corpus of Diaspora jewelry and particularly of Diaspora Jewish gems with
this highly symbolic motif.
The beginning of the Jewish presence in Iberia is obscure (among oth-
ers cf. Mantas 2004: 68) and the evidence is scattered and disparate. How-
ever, most scholars agree that by the 1st c. or the 2nd c. A.D. there was a
Jewish presence in Roman Iberia (Millar 1992: 120). There is more sub-
stantial evidence to Jewish presence in Roman Iberia from the Later Roman
period and especially during the Christian period (Braun 1998: 148-9, 162;
Millar 1992: 97-9) including synagogues in Tarragona (2), Alcal, Toledo
and Emerita Augusta (Mrida) in Lusitania (Grossman 1991: Map at end
of book). The Emerita synagogue is a Roman-Byzantine period edice.
Inscriptions found in Emerita, such as the Latin inscription of unconrmed
Roman (?) date reading Rebbi Se[muel?] and Rebbi Ja[cob] (CIJ, No.
665a; Millar 1992: 111) and an anonymous text (Vitas sanctorum patrum
emeritensium) from the end of the 6th c. A.D. attest to the presence of
Jewish individuals in the city. In the hagiography cited above, it is said
that the bishop of Mrida, Massona, opened the doors of his own hospice
(for pilgrims and foreigners) to the numerous Jews living there (Garcia
Moreno 1993: 56).
Other archaeological objects, inscriptions and architectonic structures
attest Jewish presence in Lusitania in present day Portugal. For example, a
small hoard of Roman coins dating from the 1st c. A.D. said to have been
discovered near Myrtilis (present day Mrtola), Lusitania, during destruc-
tion of an old wall, includes coins issued in Jerusalem and Roman Palestine
between the years 6-60 A.D. by King Agrippa of King Herods family as
well as by Procurators serving in Palestine (displayed in the Museu Judaico
de Belmonte. Centeno and Valladares Souto 1993/7: 200). If the story of
the nding of these coins is correct then they are the earliest concrete evi-
dence to presence of Jewish immigrants presumably from the Land of Israel
(?) to the Iberian Peninsula during Roman times.
It is interesting that of the 3 tomb inscriptions which testify to Jews
buried in present day Portugal 1 was excavated in Myrtilis. It is a fragment-
ed marble slab inscribed in Latin which carries the date: 4th of October
482 A.D. Although it is missing the deceased name, his Jewish origin is
obvious due to a partial Hebrew word and a schematic Menorah with plain
brunches and tripod base engraved below the inscription. The 2 other Jew-
ish tombstones which come from Espiche, Lagos, in the most southern tip
of Lusitania, are believed to date from the 6th-7th c. Each is dedicated to

a member of the Cohen family (Tavares 2004: 14-5).13 Some objects relat-
ing to Jews, primarily ceramic oil lamps, were found in the ruins of Tria
citys harbor, Lusitania (its ancient Roman name is uncertain). At least 2
are decorated with the Menorah (Mantas 2004: 68). Recently, remains of a
structure found close to Trias industrial structures identied as cetariae
for the garum industry were identied by Mantas as probable remains of a
synagogue (and by other scholars as a Paleo-Christian basilica).14
Thus, although the Menorah intaglio is at present the single archaeo-
logical evidence to Jewish presence in Roman Ammaia the evidence from
Lusitania supports the plausible existence of individual Jews and perhaps
even of a Jewish community in this central city.

The Menorahs material and workshop origin

The following elaboration on the Menorah gems material and its presumed
origin will show that this Jewish gem is in all likelihood of local (Am-
maia)-regional (Lusitania) production.
The word Nicolo refers to a hard quartz stone (silicon dioxide SiO2;
hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale) of the microcrystalline quartz group. It
is thus of the same mineralogical group as carnelian, chalcedony, sard,
sardonyx, agate, jasper, etc. In antiquity there existed a wide range of
quartzes of varying colors and appearance to which different names were
applied (Spier 1992: 5; Konuk and Arslan 2000: 4-5). These microcrys-
talline quartzes have the same mineralogical consistency as the macroc-
rystalline quartzes (amethyst, rock crystal, white opaque-milky crystals).
The varieties often merge in Nature into each other in a less precise way
than is suggested by the ancient or modern terminology (Ogden 1982:
105). The term sardonyx is used to describe various sub-types of chal-
cedony with straight bands of alternating brown or blue bands or blue-
brown-white straight bands. However, in modern terminology the term

13. A carnelian intaglio with a Greek inscription on both sides, dated to the 3rd-4th c.
(Ginner 1996: 110-11, No. 49) said to have been discovered in the 18th c. by a herdsman
in Almeida, a town located in Lusitania (Yebenes, 2000: 41-4), is a Jewish or Christian
piece. Reverted into Latin characters the inscriptions read: Face A: TON THEON SOI
that the divinity invoked in face A might be Iao and that face B could refer to Iao Sabaoth
or to Adonai. Another interpretation is that this apparently magical stone refers to Serapis
or Zeus-Serapis.
14. We thank Prof. Mantas of the University of Coimbra for sharing with us his thoughts.

sardonyx refers in particularly to those with reddish brown straight and

parallel bands. The term onyx, a sub-type of sardonyx, is usually given
to a black and white two-layered banded chalcedony with straight and
parallel bands. The term agate (or banded agate) is usually used to de-
scribe quartz with different wavy or irregular bands, which may be black,
brown, white, yellow, red and gray. It differs from sardonyx, nicolo or
onyx in that the different bands on the engraved agate gem (or bead) run
irregularly and vertically, following angles and curves rather than straight
and horizontally.
The term nicolo is used to describe a Roman sardonyx with a blue/
bluish-white top layer and brown-dark brown or dark blue-black bottom
layer. As such it is a sub-type of the onyx. However, more correctly the
term nicolo does not refer to a variety of natural microcrystalline quartz
that is to a colored layered stone sub-type, but rather to a form of cut
stone. As a type of cut nicolo refers to a at cut intaglio of the above
blue/bluish-white and brown/dark brown/dark blue/black layers. Therefore,
nicolos date from the introduction of at cut intaglios. All ancient nicolos
belong to type F intaglios or undecorated gems. Many are of sub-types
F4 and F1. The 8 examples from Ammaia are in the shape of F4.15
Nicolo is absent from Nature. Nicolo gems are absent from pre-Hel-
lenistic jewelry. Only a few stones are supposed to be Hellenistic exam-
ples. The majority dates from about the 1st c. A.D. onwards.
The Romans called nicolos aegyptilla (Ogden 1982: 109) which
presumably reects their belief in their Egyptian origin, as well as their
knowledge that nicolo is actually treated microcrystaline quartz. Curved,
wavy veins or layers/bands of pale gray-blue/bluish colors occur in Na-
ture, for example as part of banded agates or smoky chalcedony. Sources
of sardonyx, onyx, as well as the natural banded quartz stones of Roman
times used to cut nicolo intaglios are known for example from Egypt,
Arabia, India and Iberia. Scholars agree that treatment of many of these

15. Besides the Menorah and lyre nicolos, Dr. Delmiras collection contains 5 other nicolos
whose devices are: 1. a hero, perhaps Alexander the Great; 2. Mars Ultor; 3. Jupiter To-
nans; 4. Eros/babys face, set in a golden ring. The devices on these 4 specimens are like
the Menorah and the lyre cut on vertical axis; 5. Eros extracting a thorn from a lions paw,
device cut on horizontal axis. The collection also contains 2 nicolo pastes: 1. Victory/Nike
in ight, also cut on the vertical axis; 2. stylized symbol probably wheat on circular surface.
The 8th nicolo with a device of a herdsman standing by a tree, and the 3rd nicolo paste with
a warrior device, were recently excavated by S. Borges in a water-pipe of Ammaias baths.
Both devices are likewise cut on the vertical axis. (These 10 pieces are to be published in
the Corpus of Gems from Portugal by Graa Cravinho, cf. supra n.1).

natural onyx and sardonyx sub-types of microcrystalline quartz was prac-

ticed before Roman times in order to improve, and enhance their natural
pale colors or to change them. The main procedure of altering the stones
in antiquity consisted of soaking them in honey and other sugary sub-
stances and presumably heating (Ogden 1982: 109; Francise 1991: 28-43).
By Late Hellenistic or Early Roman times this practice intensied and
the majority of banded/layered chalcedonies gems as well as beads dating
from these periods were then certainly coloured articially (Guiraud 1996:
40; Galopim de Carvalho 2002: 343). The appearance of nicolo gems pre-
sumably from Hellenistic times and certainly by the Early Roman period
is therefore most likely an invention of that period. It probably relates
to the advanced treatment methods, which by then included also usage of
silicate, heating, etc. Heating also helped to make it easier to carve the
treated raw material into at cut gem-blanks.
Nicolo, banded agate of the brown-red-white type, onyx and sardonyx
were considered in antiquity precious stones.16 It is highly likely that in
the Roman period gems fashioned from treated, colored quartz and cut to
nicolo shaped plain gems and then engraved were appreciated above all
for aesthetic considerations. Their light blue and darker blue/brown/black
layers tted and contrasted aesthetically very well with gold jewelry fram-
ings (of gold or bronze metal rings, pendants, earrings etc.) as well as
with silver metal jewelry. The secondary consideration for choosing the
blue nicolo might have been, at least for certain segments of the society,
symbolic. The high demand for such layered stones during Roman times17

16. Aside from glyptic, that is intaglios and cameos, these materials served also for cutting
of statuettes (particularly banded agate), inlays, and beads (usage of these materials for
beads declines by the latter 2nd c. A.D., nicolo beads are wanting). All were lapidary cut,
carved and engraved by lapidary workshops located in Rome, Alexandria, Aquileia (Chiesa
1966), Caesarea Maritima, Israel (Amorai-Stark 1999), but probably also in other regional
centers around the Roman empire.
17. Intaglios of layered microcrystalline banded agate are comparatively uncommon in
comparison to sardonyx, onyx and nicolos within the overall Corpus of Roman intaglios
(Ogden 1982: 109). The number of banded agates from Roman Portugal (35) is compara-
tively large. On the whole the usage of banded agates for ringstone intaglios, as well as
for beads starts to decline within the empire after the 1st c. A.D. The reasons for this
phenomenon are probably chiey within the realm of fashion considerations since both
the supply of the raw material and the technique of enhancing layered microcrystalline
into banded agates were unchanged or improved from previous periods. Furthermore, it
appears that banded agate continued to be used as cameos, statuettes, small vessels and
inlay material. Thus the nding of 2 brown/white/orange layered banded agate intaglios in
Ammaia dating from the later 1st c. B.C.-1st c. A.D. is in accordance with the overall usage

intensied the search after raw materials that is, for rich quartz layers
within the Roman empire.
Stones of the microcrystalline group were then preferred over stones
of the large quartz crystals for cutting and engraving because their
minute structure of crystals could be easily worked and they do not
have a weakness orientation or cleavage, as do the large macrocrystal-
line quartzes. Thus, ne quality carnelians, onyxes and sardonyxes were
not only very popular for intaglios but also the preferred stones for
engraving Roman cameos (Henig 1990: 134). This is well exemplied
by the nds from Portugal. Of the 26 Roman cameos from Portugal 18
21 are of quartz. Of these, 18 are layered microcrystallines (6 nicolos,
4 sardonyxes, 2 pale chalcedony, 1 agate and 1 dark onyx) and 4 are
carnelians.19 Many of these 21 specimens are unprovennanced or said
to come from Lusitania, particularly from Algarve or Alentejo. All 5
cameos of secured provenance come from sites or regions in Lusitania
(1 nicolo excavated in Fies; 1 white-brown sardonyx from Setbal; 1
white-red sardonyx and the single onyx from Alentejo; 1 carnelian from
Ammaia [in Dr. Mass collection]). Thus, percentage of nicolo cameos
(6 pieces), is 28.6% of the quartz cameos (18 pieces) and 23.1% of the
overall Roman cameos (26 pieces) from Portugal. This is an uncom-
monly high percentage.

of banded agate as intaglio material in the empire, but the overall high number of Roman
banded agates intaglios in the Corpus from Portugal is not. The devices of the 2 Ammaia
banded agates are of single horses: grazing and Pegasus. In both, the upper layer consists
of dark-white-dark stripes over which the horses are engraved. The artisans did not utilize
the agates stones layers to any compositional advantages. In Roman jewelry, for example
in cameos and beads the vertical banded layers of agates are commonly used to the utmost
ornamental, artistic and iconographic advantage drawn from the differences between the
layers of the banded agate. On the comparatively few banded agate Roman intaglios of
this brown/red/white/brown type, the devices were usually depicted on horizontal layers
(Amorai-Stark 1993: 92, No. 116; Henig 1994: 120-1, No. 227; Cravinho 2001: 155-7,
No. 6, later 1st c. B.C., provenanced from Conimbriga, Portugal). The example from
Conimbriga shows that both the common and less common forms of engraving banded
agate gems were known in Western Iberia during the early Roman times. The fact that
both Ammaia agates are cut in the less common Roman fashion for banded agate gems
plausibly supports the possible existence of microquartz workshops in Ammaia already
during its early days.
18. To date the number of up to 16th century cameos from Portugal total 32, 6 of them are
Post Roman-Early Byzantine.
19. The other 5 Roman cameos from Portugal are 4 pastes (1 a white-black glass paste
imitates onyx excavated in Ammaias Bath House) and 1 is a malachite.

Within the intaglio Corpus from Portugal microcrystalline quartz intagl-

ios constitute c. 72% (of which c. 45% are carnelian.20 Carnelian presents
also the 2nd most frequent gemstone material within the Ammaia gems).
The high percentage of carnelian intaglios in Portugal Corpus as well as
in the gems from Ammaia is not a unique phenomenon to Portugal or to
Ammaia since carnelian is the most common intaglio (and overall glyptic)
material in most regions of the Roman empire (Ogden 1982: 108; Spier
1992: 5). This high percentage of carnelian is, however, a contributing fac-
tor to the evidence that microcrystalline quartz was quarried in Lusitania.
The high percentage of layered microcrystalline intaglios from Portugal
(34.2%) is, however, either higher or similar to that from other regions
within the empire (for the overall percentage of layered microcrystalline
gems [intaglios + cameos] from Portugal, 24.8%, see Table 2; Fig. 3).
The percentage of nicolo glyptic nds (intaglios and cameos) from Por-
tugal is similar to that from other western regions21 but higher than the single
eastern Roman site presented in table 2 and Fig. 3.22 This similarity probably
points to the overall popularity-fashion considerations and economic value of

20. Excluding the Post Byzantine-Modern gems, to date the total of glyptic pieces (intagl-
ios, cameos and impressions) in the Portugal Corpus is 513. As the material of 34 pieces
couldnt be conrmed (of the impressions and of few stones), the total of conrmed material
glyptic pieces is 479. Of these 479 glyptic pieces, 342 are microcrystalline quartz intaglios
(nicolo: 43; sardonyx: 6; agate: 34; onyx: 8; carnelian: 151; chalcedony: 20; sard: 35; jasper:
45). Thus, combined with the cameos (see supra n.18) there are: 49 nicolo pieces, 10 sar-
donyx; 9 onyx; 155 carnelian, 22 chalcedonies pieces; 35 agate (there are no sard or jasper
cameos in the Corpus). In Fig. 3 the carnelians are included among the others since they
are not layered and due to their overall frequency.
21. As stated in the text modern publications often do not present a clear-cut differentia-
tion between sardonyx, nicolo and onyx. For example, in some brown-red layered stones
are termed brown nicolos; in others blue-white-dark layered specimens are termed onyx;
in still others stones are termed sardonyx or onyx? Furthermore, since frequently the
stones are presented in black and white pictures or as impressions one cannot identify the
precise microcrystalline type of the stones. This problem has also been encountered in the
identication of few stones from Portugal. Therefore, the above counting and percentage
may in fact slightly differ.
22. There are 7 nicolo intaglios among the more than 400 Roman stones from Gadara, Jor-
dan in the Sad Collection (Henig and Whiting 1987); a single nicolo among the more than
100 engraved stones from Caesarea Maritima, Israel in the Sdot-Yam Museum (Amorai-
Stark 1999: 87-9) and 3 nicolos within the nearly 170 glyptic pieces in the Yusel Erimtan
Collection, Asia Minor (Konuk and Arslan 2000). The last 2 were not included in the tablet
for brevity reasons. Corpora of Roman glyptic nds from most Eastern regions, such as
Greece, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey and Egypt, as well as from other major cities in these
regions are wanting. Absence of such a Corpus from Egypt or even from major Egyptian
centers such as Alexandria is particularly missed due to the Romans presumed belief that
nicolos originated in Egypt (see text).

nicolo during Roman times but also presumably to the availability of nicolo
in the western part of the empire. A different picture rises when the percent-
age of nicolo glyptic nds from Ammaia (27 pieces) is observed: 30%. This
is the highest in comparison to all cities and regions inspected. Furthermore,
the Ammaia percentage of glyptic microcrystallines and nicolo pastes is also
signicantly the highest among the examined locations (62.5%).
The existence of 8 nicolo intaglios within the present Ammaia glyptic
nds (27 pieces) which comprise c. 1/3 is the highest percentage in any sin-
gle site or regional Roman nds (together with the nicolo pastes they com-
prise nearly 1/2 (in fact: 40.7% = c. 41%) of the nds. See Tables 1-2 and
Fig. 3). It is an unusually large percentage of nicolos and/or nicolos+nicolo
pastes for any collection. This is not likely to be accidental.

Table 1. Absolute Numbers of glyptic stones by sites and regions


AMMAIA 8 3 2 2 2 10 27
PORTUGAL 49 16 35 10 9 360 479
IBERIAN 102 19 94 21 11 1088 1335
FRANCE 145 144 35 25 9 657 1015
AQUILEIA 128 1 26 20 1398 1573
BULGARIA 7 5 12 43 67
BRITAIN 59 127 18 2 654 860
GADARA 10 2 5 22 10 378 427

Table 2. Percentages of glyptic stones by sites and regions.


AMMAIA 29.6% 11.1% 7.4% 7.4% 7.4% 37.0% 100.0%
PORTUGAL 10.2% 3.3% 7.3% 2.1% 1.9% 75.2% 100.0%
IBERIAN 7.6% 1.4% 7.0% 1.6% 0.8% 81.5% 100.0%
FRANCE 14.3% 14.2% 3.4% 2.5% 0.9% 64.7%
AQUILEIA 8.1% 0.1% 1.7% 0.0% 1.3% 88.9% 100.0%
BULGARIA 10.4% 0.0% 7.5% 17.9% 0.0% 64.2% 100.0%
BRITAIN 6.9% 14.8% 2.1% 0.2% 0.0% 76.0% 100.0%
GADARA 2.3% 0.5% 1.2% 5.2% 2.3% 88.5% 100.0%

Furthermore, a look at the ndings from the Iberian Peninsula23 (Table

2; Fig. 3) shows that the highest percentage of layered microcrystallines
glyptic (including nicolo) within this region comes from Ammaia; declines
among the glyptic from present day Portugal (which mainly comes from
ancient Lusitania and its columns in Table 2 and Fig. 3 include the nds
from Ammaia); and further declines within the overall glyptic nds from
the Iberian Peninsula (which in Table 2 and Fig.3 columns includes the
nds from Portugal and Ammaia). This observation points to Lusitania and
particularly to the area of Ammaia as the prime source of layered microc-
rystallines and nicolo within the Iberian Peninsula.
It seems safe, therefore, to assume that the high percentage of nicolo
glyptic from Ammaia and the overall high percentage of nicolos and other
layered microcrystalline glyptic items from Roman Lusitania reect an
historical situation. That is extensive regional availability of quartz raw
material; existence of local manufacturing center/s specializing in treating
quarried quartz into strongly coloured layered microcrystalline quartz; and
of their cutting and engraving. The preference for layered blue nicolos en-
countered in the Ammaia corpus not only presupposes that microcrystalline
quartz was mined, treated, cut to F4 gem shapes in the region but also that
plain and plausibly also engraved nicolos must have been cheaper in Am-
maia/Lusitania than in most other Western regions of the Roman empire.
Therefore, it is presumed that Ammaia/Lusitania was one of the centers to
produce and possibly also to export nicolo gems.24
Indeed ancient sources and modern studies conrm that Ammaia and
its surrounding region were one of the chief quartz centers within Ro-
man Lusitania. The well known passage in the Elder Plinys25 famous work

23. The slight difference in the percentage of layered microcrystallines nds from Portugal
and their overall nd in the Iberian Peninsula might in the future be slightly altered and
the percentage of those from the Iberian Peninsula lowered. This might come about due to
further ndings and publications; future universally accepted scholarly terminology regard-
ing the precise identication of each and every microcrystalline glyptic nd from Spain
(cf. supra n. 21).
24. Among other questions future research into the precise origin of these nicolos at each site
and region will help to establish whether these nicolos come from the regions inner land, or
as we predict mainly from costal regions and harbor cities (like Aquileia); into existence of
Roman microcrystalline mines and of treated layered microcrystalline gems cutting centers in
Western European regions; as well as discussion of the established commercial ties between
Lusitania and these regions may help to establish Ammaia (and Lusitania) as the main, or one
of the most important sources of Western Roman treated layered microcrystalline gems.
25. The Elder Pliny, who died in A.D. 79, served as procurator in Tarraconensis (Iberia)
from 72 to 74.

Naturalis Historiae relating to the natural resources of nowadays Portugal

(Map 2) is our major ancient source. He writes: Cornelius Bocchus et in
Lusitania perquam mirandi ponderis in Ammaeensibus iugis, depressis ad
libramentum aquae puteis (NH 37, 24); Bocchus auctor est et in Hispania
repertas quo in loco crystallum dixit ad libramentum puteis defossis erui,
chrysolithon XII pondo a se uisam (NH 37, 127).
One thing is certain from Pliny: Roman Lusitania and Ammaias region
in particular were known already in the 1st c. A.D. (and possibly even ear-
lier) as an important source of quartz.
Carvalho, in his paper on the road system of Roman Ammaia (Map 3),
attributes the citys rise to prominence26 among other things, to its nearness
to mine quarries: One of the extremely important factors that can justify/
explain the rise and growth of Ammaia and the existence of notable/impres-
sive edices in it for that period, should have been the existence of important
mines in its territory, mainly of gold, lead and silver. It is through Plinys
book that we learn about the existence of crystal stones in Ammaeensibus
iugis.27 Although this author does not make any direct reference to the city, he
does indicate the discovery and exploration of gems and crystals in Lusitania,
most likely located on the mountains of Marvo and So Mamede. Explo-
ration of gems and crystals is also conrmed during the Islamic period by
Al-Himyari. One of the factors which certies the existence of these riches
has to do with the existence of several individuals, natives of Clunia,28 who

26. The Roman city of Ammaia was one of the three major cities of provincia Lusitania.
It was founded a short while after the Romans arrived to the Iberian Peninsula on a site
with no evidence for occupation before Roman times. Claudius elevated it to the status of a
civitas. According to epigraphically and archaeological evidence, it was raised to the status
of municipium at the end of the 1st c. A.D. Ammaia controlled a vast territory, which coin-
cides more or less with the present district of Portalegre (Mantas 2002: 51; Alarco 1987:
54, and 1988: 49). As a central regional civic city it was connected to many places in the
province and throughout the Iberian Peninsula by an excellent road system (Map 3). This
extensive and good road system allowed export of the regions products as well as import
of other products from various regions of the empire. For example, excavations have un-
earthed objects originating from other locations in Hispania, Galia Narbonensis, Italy and
the Middle East. One of the earliest imported objects found is a Rhodian amphora dating
from the end of the 1st c. B.C. - early 1st c. A.D. (Carvalho 2002: 74, 82-3, g. 2). The
city continued to exist after the Barbarian Invasions of the 5th c. At some date between the
2nd half of the 5th and 9th c., the city was probably submerged by oods and rise of Sever
River (Rei 2002: 164-5; Pereira and De Meulemeester 2001: 1-2).
27. Attributing the rise of Ammaia to near by mines does not repudiate other possible
explanations raised by scholars regarding the importance of the city, for example Antnio
Rei suggestion that Ammaia was a Roman tourist center (Rei 2002: 164: a sua principal
funo seria a de funcionar como local de veraneio das elites emeritenses).
28. Mantas 2002: 52-3, No. 1; 58-60, No. 4.

immigrated to this region, lived in the city of Ammaia or its surrounding area,
who are normally associated with mine exploration as well as with seasonal
transference of herds (Carvalho 2002: 82).29
Oleiro in his 1954 survey report of Ammaia identied important re-
mains of ancient mine explorations in Cova da Moura, Porto da Espada in
the region of Ammaia (Oliveira J. 2002: 35) (Map 4).
Another quartz quarry has most probably been identied only recently
within the city perimeter of Ammaia.30
The Ammaia Museum contains a large amount of raw quartz speci-
mens and fragments found on the site. The majority is of the non-layered
or faintly layered microcrystalline chalcedony type.31 Absence of strongly
colored layered microcrystallines specimens strengthens the above sugges-
tion that the quarried quartzes were articially treated on site which is in
accordance with Galopim de Carvalhos theory regarding the geological
mineral nds of Portugal (Carvalho 2002: 275, 329, 341-3).
Undoubtedly ofcina gemmaria existed in Lusitania. Studies suggest
their existence, for example, in Conimbriga and Emerita Augusta (present
day Mrida), Lusitania (Luzon 1982: 135; Map 2). Our nds favor the ex-
istence of ofcina gemmaria also in Ammaia, since its establishment. The
total of 27 glyptic specimens from Ammaia is one of the largest from a
single site in Lusitania.32 Excluding the Menorah and lyre nicolo gems, the
date range of the other Ammaia nicolos and nicolo pastes, as well as of all
other ancient pieces from Ammaia which present a wide range of common
Roman motives is the 1st c. B.C. - 3rd c. A.D. To date no glyptic piece dat-
ing from the 4th c. onwards has come to light in Ammaia or its vicinity.33

29. Translated by Graa Cravinho from Portuguese.

30. Its location on Sever River crossing Ammaia has been shown to us by Joaquim Carvalho
in June 2005.
31. We examined the large specimens in the Museum on location and chemically analyzed
a tiny fragment given to us by Joaquim Carvalho under the SEM (cf. supra n. 4) of the
Geological Institute of Israel.
32. For example, in comparison the total of glyptic pieces from Conimbriga is: 26; from
Idanha-a-Velha (Roman Igaeditania): 6; from Fies (a Romanized Iron Age castrum): 5
(1 an ambar ring); from Vaiamonte (also a Romanized Iron Age castrum): 5; from Torre
de Palma (a villa): 1; from the area of Cascais: 4 (1 a jet ring) and from Lisbon (Roman
Olisipo) only 2 (1 red jasper, 1 glass paste).
33. Very few glyptic specimens within the Portugal Corpus appear to date from the Later
Roman period and fewer still from the 4th c. until early medieval times. For example, a
glass paste depicting a warrior, from Bracara Augusta (present day Braga) in Roman Gal-
laecia is dated to 3rd-4th c.; a glass paste with device of two standing gures set in a Late
Roman-Early Byzantine copper alloy ring and a pale layered untreated chalcedony depicting

The devices of the Ammaia 6 nicolos and 3 nicolo pastes34 are engraved in
3 distinctive common Roman engraving styles. Parallels to their engraving
styles are found among the other Roman gems from Ammaia. Thus, it is
probable that workshops specializing in fashioning treated raw quartz into
nicolo glyptic existed in the city side by side with other ofcina gemmaria
specializing in fashioning glyptic from other microcrystalline quartzes, or

a schematic standing gure plausibly holding a cross, unprovenanced, in Rainer Daehnhardt

Collection; a dark blue glass past cameo of a tragic mask, of late 3rd c. or earlier date, from
Salacia (present day Alccer do Sal) in Lusitania and a red sard with a cross set in a Late
Roman-7th c. type gold ring, unprovenanced, both in Rainer Daehnhardt Collection (to be
published in G. Cravinho, Glptica Romana em Portugal). These scant nds from Portugal
correspond to the dwindling production of glyptic which characterizes the period throughout
the former Roman Empire regions. Although we have no secure ancient information on Ro-
man Ammaia after the 2nd c. A.D., other evidences show its progressive decline (Carneiro
2002: 139).
To date the coins from Ammaia total 1213 pieces (Pereira, Carvalho and Borges 1999/2000:
55-70: 1118 were unearthed, 10 are surface nds and 85 were donated. The excavated coins
include a C. Julius Caesar denarius [c. 49-8 B.C.], 1st c. A.D. specimens including Titus
coins, 2nd, 3rd and 4th c. A.D. coins. The latest coin an Arcadius [392-5] coin).
An earlier report on the citys 1995 excavations (Oliveira, Fernandes and Caeiro 1996: 20-
1) indicates that by the mid 4th c. the city had to review its defensive strategy. It was then
necessary to strengthen the fortications, to secure the main entrance gate to the city and to
hastily close the hatches (postigo or escotilha in Portuguese) which led to the gates 2
circular towers. The report also states that these excavations unearthed more than 100 coins
(mainly of bronze) as well as fragments of common ceramics and sigillata dating from the
end of the 1st to the 4th c.). In a later article Pereira (2002: 99-134) elaborates on the 2
coin hoards unearthed in the interior of Ammaias main gate entrance west tower stating
that the 1st hoard was composed of 10 silver coins: from a Julius Caesar denarius to coins
of Domitian (some denarii), and further 10 coins; the 2nd hoard contained 10 coins: from
the Julio-Claudian, mainly Trajanus sestertia, to Domitian).
34. The majority present deities and their symbols. For example, Zeus-Jupiter is known
from several inscriptions to be the most important deity in Ammaia (Alarco 1987: 171 [1
of the 2 mentioned altars is dedicated to I.O.M. Solutorius]; idem 1988: 165, 167; Mantas
2002: 52-5, Nos. 1, 2: 2 inscriptions of a total of 5) is represented on one of these Ammaia
nicolos. Although their motifs are of common types frequently found depicted throughout
the empire on various other colored stones it is possible that the meaning of the deity
devices which appear on the Ammaia nicolo specimens was spiritually elevated by being
depicted on nicolos. For it is plausible that by being depicted on these blue layered stones
the non-earthly presence, heavenly aspect of these deities and symbols was more visually
obvious and thus more pronounced and acclaimed. Of these common Roman cameo and
intaglio subjects the theme of the herdsman presents the only daily life subject. Its basic
meaning is that of prosperity (for example Henig and Whiting 1987: Nos. 291-8; Amorai-
Stark 1999: No. 98; Spier 1992: 114, No. 290, with reference to the signicance of this
motif). However in time the goatherd motif may have been given a more spiritual Pagan
or Christian explanation (Henig 1990: 80, Nos. 148-9). As such the glyptic motif of a
goatherd was probably acceptable also to Christians and Jews (St. Clement of Alexandria:
Paedagogus III, 12, I).

more likely that the ofcina gemmaria in Ammaia worked all types of
quartzes at the same time. The schematic symbol (ear of corn) engraved
on a small F4 nicolo paste is the only other Ammaia gem which presents
a similar austere engraving style to that of the Menorah and lyre intaglios
(Fig. 4). It probably dates from the later 2nd-3rd c. A.D.
Considering this background it is highly certain that the nicolo material
of the Menorah intaglio comes from this local industry; its engraved Jewish
motif35 is a product of an Ammaia (or Lusitania) workshop; and that the
Menorah gems date is the 3rd c. A.D.


The Menorah intaglio from Ammaia is an example of the productive nico-

lo glyptic workshops in this Roman city, which were part of the regional
quartz industry. As the only secured Jewish gem from Roman Lusitania it
constitutes the most Western glyptic evidence to a Jewish presence within
the Roman empire. It is an important addition to the small number of
Jewish gems of secured Western Diaspora provenance depicting the motif
of the Menorah with 3 sacred symbols. The gem also suggests the existence
of Jews in Ammaia, and thus strengthens former evidence to presence of
Jewish communities in 3rd c. A.D. Lusitania.

Graa Cravinho
Lisbon, Portugal

Shua Amorai-Stark
Beer-Shevah, Israel

35. Provided that this is the case then one has to assume that its engraver was either pre-
sented with a pattern book or had one in his possession; was acquainted with the motif due
to former/concurrent Jewish clientele; or was presented with some object which carried the
Acknowledgement: Our gratitude to Martin Henig for reading the article and for his help-
ful comments.


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Fig. 1a-b The Menorah

Jewish intaglio from
Ammaia (Portugal).

Fig. 2a-b Gem with a

musical instrument from
Ammaia (Portugal).

Map 1 Civitas Ammaeensis (Carneiro 2002: 138).

Fig. 3 Percentages of glyptic stones by sites and regions.


Map 2 Ammaeensibus iugis (Pereira 2002: 180).

Map 3 Road system of Roman Ammaia (Carvalho 2002: 74).


Map 4 Porto da Espada, on the right of the map

(Almeida 2002: 191).

Fig. 4 A gem with engraved symbol (ear of corn)

from Ammaia (Portugal).